Recently there was news on two separate and unrelated pedestrians deaths, the first in and the second in Toronto. The unique thing about these accidents was that they happened on the sidewalks. These were not people crossing at an intersection or “jaywalking” or doing anything out of the ordinary.
When you hear of an automobile causing the death of somebody on the sidewalk this usually means that there are no barriers between the sidewalk and the roadway.
We can verify this by checking the google street view of the incident areas.
Coquitlam at Marmont Street and Austin Ave
Toronto at Birchmount Road and Zenith Drive
It would appear that this is the case for both incidents. The incident in Toronto seems to have involved a curb cut for an apartment building, where the driver upon exiting hit the pedestrian. Curb cuts are an entirely different issue.
Now lets take a look at a street with barriers between the sidewalk and the roadway.
As you notice looking down the street the trees give a sense of less space than there actually is. This sense of closeness can promote traffic calming as people are more likely to be wary driving as the space seems smaller.
So why do transportation engineers design roadways without these basic protections for pedestrians? Its part of something called forgiveness. Our laws do not weed out the bad drivers on the road and therefore engineers allow room for error trying to design roads to move the most amount of vehicles in the shortest amount time. Therefore due to the chance of human error, to prevent vehicular passengers from injuring themselves if they were to collide into a tree going off the road they remove them. However as these incidents show there is the chance of pedestrian casualties.
However the absence of barriers tends to make the situation worse. The space feels wider than it actually is and encourages speeding. The installation of trees as barriers can serve a number of purposes:
1. It can clean the air.
2. It can make the road seem smaller, forcing people to be more wary and drive slower.
3. It can give pedestrians a more enjoyable experience.